Thursday 9 July 2009 12:15pm
An international specialist on the effects of processing on food quality is the University of Otago's new Professor of Food Science.
Dr Indrawati Oey, currently a leading food technology researcher at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, was chosen from a wide field of international candidates, and will take up the position at the University later this year.
"Dr Oey is an outstanding young researcher who has already accumulated an impressive publication record in major academic journals," says Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg. "Her innovative work in the area of food processing and in emerging food technologies will complement the University's present strengths in this important discipline."
Professor Skegg said that the appointment of a researcher of Dr Oey's calibre signalled the University's commitment to the field of food science, which is particularly relevant in a nation where food production is one of the principal engines of economic prosperity.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences) Professor Vernon Squire is also pleased with the appointment.
"I am delighted that the University has attracted Dr Indrawati Oey to join our Department of Food Science / Clothing and Textile Sciences as its newest professor," Professor Squire says. "By publishing her research findings in high impact journals, Dr Oey has rapidly developed international status as a leading food scientist across a range of topics of direct relevance to New Zealand. Her broad expertise will be valued in her new department and the wider University, where she will join a dynamic team of scientists researching and teaching in fields connected to food and nutrition."
Originally from Indonesia, Dr Oey will be relocating from Belgium to New Zealand with her husband and three children to take up her new post. She says she has long admired the University of Otago due to its "well-known international reputation" in research and education.
"Therefore, I am not only really happy to have this position but also very proud to be one of the University of Otago's academic staff members. It's a real honour for me."
She added that the Professorship is a "broadly promising prospect" not only in terms of research and education, but in building "professional networks of excellence."
"I am very excited about this new phase of my career. As a food scientist, conducting food research in New Zealand will be exciting because of the role the agro-industrial sector plays in the nation's economy. Certainly, our science and research could directly and significantly contribute to food industries, governmental institutions and other stakeholders."
Dr Oey's expertise focuses on understanding the mechanisms and kinetics of (bio)chemical reactions related to food quality, such as texture, colour, flavour and nutrition - all of which can impact on human health and nutrition. As a working mother herself, she says she understands how challenging it can be to prepare nutritious meals, and the need for foods that are quick and easy to prepare without sacrificing quality:
"Food processing such as cooking is an art. However, in the current modern lifestyle, people don't have much time to cook every mealtime. Thus, food processing and preservation became my great interest. As scientists, we can tailor food materials and natural ingredients to obtain safe, tasty and healthy food products. My goal, therefore, is to scientifically control (bio)chemical reactions during handling, preparation, processing and storage to guarantee the chemical and microbial safety and overall quality of food, especially its nutritional value."
Dr Oey expressed admiration for the "professionalism" and wide range of expertise in the Department of Food Science and says she is very much looking forward to working with her new colleagues.
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